What You Need To Know About Plagiocephaly

flat-head-syndrome
Image adapted via Flickr/ teamstickergiant

Although we always want our babies to be the picture of perfect health, it doesn't always end up that way. When you go to the doctor because you're worried about your young baby's health, it's not a great feeling. All the “what ifs” and questions can be terrifying.

If your baby has been diagnosed with positional flat head syndrome, here is everything you need to know.

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Image via Flickr/ ariellie calderonie

What is flat head syndrome?

Medically called plagiocephaly, flat head syndrome occurs when a baby's head develops a flat spot like the name suggests. Since babies are born with pliable heads to allow them to move through the birth canal, it's OK to have a strange shape after birth. But typically, that resolves within six weeks, according to Women's and Children's Health Network. Flat head syndrome occurs after that when a baby's head presents a flat spot or is misshapen.

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Image via Flickr/ marie_claire_camp

How does it happen?

According to Kids Health, positional flat head syndrome can be the result of how baby sleeps. “Flat head syndrome usually occurs when a baby sleeps in the same position most of the time or because of problems with the neck muscles,” they write.

If your baby sleeps through the night (I'm jealous if they do), the pressure of lying on the back of their head can cause their head to flatten in one spot.

It can also be the result of torticollis, stiff neck muscles that could have developed in the womb if you were pregnant with twins, your baby was breech, or if they were lodged up in your ribs (ouch!). Doctors can typically diagnose just by looking at your baby's head shape and growth.

{ MORE: The Hardest Time in My Marriage: The Newborn Phase }

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Image via Flickr/ koadmunkee

How is it treated?

Some doctors recommend a wait-and-see approach after a few months of increasing tummy time and repositioning the baby's head while they sleep. Alternating where they sleep in their crib or bed can encourage them to move their head more, and tummy time can help work up their neck muscles and help if torticollis is present.

If after a few months those methods don't work, Kids Health says some doctors may prescribe “a custom-molded helmet or head band,” but they warn of the dangers of using these devices without the supervision of a physician.

A report published in a May 2014 issue of BMJ shares results of a study that showed the helmets may not make much of a difference in the long term.

Starting when they were 6 months old, half of the babies wore a custom-made, rigid, closely fitting helmet for 23 hours a day over six months. The others received no treatment. By the time the children were 2 years old, there was no significant difference in the degree of improvement in head shape between the two groups, nor in the number of them who made a full recovery to normal head shape.”

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Image via Flickr/ andrewmalone

What does long-term look like?

The long-term outlook for babies diagnosed with positional flat head syndrome is excellent. When your baby starts rolling over and sitting up, their flat spot won't get any worse, and whether treatment was sought through at-home measures or the use of a helmet, most children have perfectly round heads.

{ MORE: Why Three Bites of Baby Food Changed My Life }

Did your baby have flat head syndrome? Share in the comments!

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What You Need To Know About Plagiocephaly

Devan McGuinness is the founder of the online resource Unspoken Grief, which is dedicated to breaking the silence of perinatal grief for those directly and indirectly affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Using her own experience of surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan has been actively supporting and encouraging others who are wading through the challenges associated with perinatal and neonatal loss. Winner of the 2012 Bloganthropy Award and named one of Babble's “25 bloggers wh ... More

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